Archive for category Conference

Loans and LPs: Turning Credit Unions into Sold-Out Shows

Posted by on Friday, 22 March, 2013

The opening keynote of the 2013 CUNA Consumer & Residential Mortgage Lending School will be delivered by best-selling author and popular solutions presenter, Lee Silber. His presentation, titled Credit Union Rock Stars: Lending a Hand, will discuss the life and business lessons to be learned from rock stars and their careers.

Lee Silber, as the  King of Rock 'n Roll,  Elvis Presley

Lee Silber, as the
King of Rock ‘n Roll,
Elvis Presley

Lee was kind enough to sit down with us and answer a few of the questions regarding his unconventional plans for this conference’s opening session.

You’ll be presenting on the lifestyle of rock stars and applying that lifestyle to credit union lending practices. Can you fill us in on the connection there?

You’d be surprised what you can learn from rock stars. Really. Okay, there is the “what NOT to do stuff” (bad habits) to not emulate, but there are some valuable lessons we can use in our daily lives to be better at what we do at home and on the job. Let me give you one example off the top of my head. Credit unions would not exist without their members, which are a lot like fans of a band. Those of us who have been members of a credit union for a long time (I’ve been a member since 1985) are passionate, devoted, and excited to be a part of something special. Banks are huge (like a super group) and almost everyone has heard of them, but credit unions are more like that band that is popular, but a little less mainstream–which is cool because not everyone is into them and that makes us feel a little smarter for being a fan. Maybe we can connect a little better because the band isn’t as popular and answers their own fan mail or plays smaller venues so we can get up close and personal. Our small, but awesome band (Read: credit union) hasn’t sold out, is in it for the long haul, and does it right–and does right by us. We’re loyal and love them for what they do . . . and do for us. See, the analogy works. We become “Dead Heads” (Grateful Dead followers) or “Parrot Heads” (fans of Jimmy Buffett) because we identify with what these acts stand for. Those of us who have a special place in our hearts for credit unions are “Member Heads” for a good reason; the people at our branch are like rocks stars to us when we make an important financial transaction.

In your opinion, what is the most valuable mindset to embrace when approaching a conference designed to open up new perspectives for attendees, like this year’s school?

I could try and equate the conference with a rock concert, but that would be a stretch. That’s not to say it won’t be awesome in its own way, but you won’t need to hold your lighter up to get a speaker to do an encore–but if you want to do that for me when I speak, I would be stoked. Okay, back to the question. In the music business there are several conferences (NAMM and South by Southwest to name two) where musicians meet to connect, learn, and find out what’s what in the industry. If there is any business model that has been turned upside down, it’s the music business. Everything from the way music is made and recorded (analog to digital) to how it is sold (albums in music stores to digital downloads on iTunes) and enjoyed (from cassettes played in cars to satellite radio and smart phones) has changed and the smart people are willing and able to change with it–and get ahead. If we look at the school as a chance to see what’s happening and how it can help us do what we do better, we will be much more engaged in what we will learn. There are plenty of parameters that control what can be done in the music business just like there are when writing loans, and music executives know they must find creative and innovative ways to work within the rules (if you are thinking about the payola scandal of the past and other record label tricks, it’s much less prevalent today) and adapt in order to get the music into the hands of those who want and need it. Sound familiar?

Followers and loyalty: definitely as important in credit unions as in the rock world. What advantages do you see in a credit union striving to build fandom rather than indifferent memberships?

A large and loyal following is the key to longevity in the music business. There are many bands that alienated their core fan base by trying to please the masses when their “members” were happy with what they had been doing previous to their attempts to be something they were not just because it was trending–and tempting. They lose the true fans of the band and after (maybe) a short bump in sales and popularity are dismayed when the fickle fans leave for the next big thing.

Fans for life are what credit unions want. A good example is a band like the Eagles where you will have three and four generations at a concert all singing along to the old songs. If we can create the kind of loyalty where credit union membership passes from generation to generation, we have the same kind of “sales” for our greatest hits album that bands do with theirs. Today, music is promoted primarily using social media which is, in essence, word-of-mouth marketing. When we do our jobs right and make sure our members’ expectations are exceeded, they will do the rest for us by posting positive comments on Facebook, in person and in passing, to other people.

Some might argue that rock stars live irresponsibly. Do you think there’s something to be said for calculated irresponsibility that a lending professional could embrace?

If rock stars were perfect, they would be far less interesting. Yes, it’s about the music, but we also like to see something and someone special out there doing things we can’t (or won’t because we’ll be arrested . . . or worse) so we live vicariously through our flawed heroes. At this point you are probably thinking, ‘There is no way he can tie this in to this conference and credit unions’–and you would be right . . . and wrong. We need to be shining examples of fiscal responsibility, be trustworthy, and know what we are talking about. Aha, here is the part you didn’t see coming. Nobody likes a know it all. Nobody is expecting a robot to help them with their loan. Nobody wants to be judged. If we can be empathetic, understanding, and non-judgmental by sharing our own personal experiences (good or bad) to help a member make the right decision, we should. If we leased when we should have bought a car and learned a valuable lesson from it, why not share it? If we bought a boat and realized “b-o-a-t” stands for “bring on another thousand” and maybe encouraged a member to make sure the boat is checked and double checked before buying it, what’s wrong with that? Be real so that members know you know what you are talking about because you have been in their shoes.

LEE SILBER is the best selling author of 19 books including “Rock To Riches”. He will be presenting the opening keynote about the connection between credit unions and rocks stars.

An Englishman in DC

Posted by on Monday, 18 March, 2013

From James Marshall:

James Marshall

A lukewarm Saturday afternoon, I land at Dulles airport following an eight hour flight from London. I am in Washington DC for my first ever Credit Union conference in the USA. I certainly picked a good one. CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference, The GAC. Over 4000 CU professionals from all over the United States and now, the world.

2013 GAC Crashers






I had been lucky enough to be chosen by The Cooperative Trust (one of The Filene Research Institutes many projects) to go to the GAC as a Crasher. Now, being British, it would be very uncouth of me to crash anything. However, on this occasion I made an exception. On arrival, I was to be welcomed with open arms by a group of CU professionals all under the age of 30. And I have to be honest, after meeting each and every one of them I can tell you that they will all be CEO’s in the future. These people are driven, intelligent, personable, funny and most of all; dedicated to credit unions. Dedicated to serving our members. Dedicated to the future of our system.

All of this was new to me. A conference of this size just doesn’t exist in the UK. I returned to our national conference with an attendance of just over 300! I had never been involved in a young person’s network before The Cooperative Trust. This just doesn’t exist in the UK right now. However, I have now experienced ‘Crash the GAC’ first hand and can tell you all that this programme should never end. What it does not only for the young people in attendance but the movement as a whole is just incredible. Hopefully I can give you a small insight into that now.

As a part of ‘Crash the GAC’, we had a large focus on Member Business Lending. As does everyone right now I can imagine. Our group had been tasked with finding out as much about what small businesses really needed and then creating a product which we could prototype in order to get credit unions aiding small businesses and in this particular instance, Co-ops. At the end of the week at the GAC, we had multiple groups working on multiple prototypes which are going to be tested out over the coming months. I’m not going to tell you what these are, but instead implore you to go and find out yourself. Reach out to The Cooperative Trust, find out what they…. We, are doing. Help! Guide! Learn!

GAC Crashers Hike the Hill 2013

The GAC also gave me an incredible insight into the inner workings of Credit Unions and their ongoing struggle with legislation and governance in the USA. I was lucky enough to be invited to ‘Hike the Hill’ with the Wisconsin Credit Union League, of whom I again received the most incredibly warm welcome. Sitting in on these meetings with congressman showed me just how important lobbying your government at all levels really is. Both local and national. So if you think your voice doesn’t count, think again. Contact your congressman or congresswoman. Work together. And to carry on from Mr. Bill Cheney’s message, ‘Unite for Good’.

I would love to tell you so much more about my week, but sadly, I don’t think you’d have enough time to hear about my adventure. Just remember, your voice counts. Reach out to government of all levels to ensure that the future of credit unions is safeguarded. And finally, I will once more implore you to reach out to The Cooperative Trust and see all the amazing work they are doing for our industry.

James Marshall is the Marketing Manager at Plane Saver Credit Union, London, United Kingdom.  All are opinions are his own. They in no way represent those of his employer.

Powerful Cause – Positive Impact: GAC Takeaways

Posted by on Wednesday, 13 March, 2013

On more than one occasion since the end of this year’s Governmental Affairs Conference, I’ve been asked what my takeaways are.  To be honest, it’s difficult to have perspective so soon after such an event; however, as I contemplated the question, I was repeatedly drawn to the theme of this year’s GAC — Powerful Cause – Positive Impact.  These four strong words both individually and collectively describe my takeaways from this year’s CUNA GAC.

Powerful:  On the first day of GAC, I tweeted a photo of 4,200 credit union advocates in the Convention Center hall.  Most advocacy groups envy the turnout and passion of our GAC.  Sometimes, that can be lost on us.  On Wednesday night, after our hill visits, a credit union CEO pulled me aside at a reception to talk about his day on the Hill.  He said to me, “There must have been something big happening on the Hill today because it was really hard to get around.”  Yes!  When you unleash several thousand advocates in the halls of Congress, people take notice; when they understand that these folks represent 96 million members of credit unions, they really start paying attention! What we did last week was a demonstration of the power of our cause.

Compressed GAC

Cause:  The numbers are impressive but they alone do not make the impact; rather they serve to amplify our cause.  Credit unions every day are fulfilling their mission to promote thrift and provide access to credit to their members.  The memory of the financial crisis is still fresh in the minds of most on Capitol Hill; and what credit unions did during the financial crisis to help their members is an ultra-current reminder of the importance of our cause.  Our efforts last week helped us make the case that credit unions are as important to consumers and small businesses today as they have ever been.

Positive: When briefing groups that visit Washington on Hike the Hill, I often remind them that our goals in advocacy are to encourage Congress to enact legislation that helps them serve their members; defend credit unions against legislation that makes it more difficult to serve their members; and to do both of these things while maintaining the positive image that credit unions earn through the service to their members.  One of the great things about advocating for credit unions is the fact that we are almost always for something and only rarely against something.  Even when defending the credit union tax status, we have the opportunity to advocate for the tax status – and this positive perspective makes a difference on the Hill.

As a Congressional staffer, a League staffer and a CUNA staffer, I have had the fortune of participating in about a dozen GACs.  Each is different, of course, reflective of the time and conditions under which credit unions are operating.  This year, the positive energy and excitement was palpable.  And why shouldn’t that be the case?  Credit unions are coming off some of the best years in their history; the size of the movement has hit an all-time high; membership is growing at record pace.  There is a lot for the credit union system to be excited about, and that excitement and pride translated into our advocacy message on Capitol Hill.

Impact: So what was the impact of our powerful cause and powerful message?  Based on the early feedback we’re receiving from credit union participants and Congressional participants in last week’s Hill meetings, it is clear we had a positive impact.  Our message on the credit union tax status has received nearly universal acceptance; members of both sides of the aisle are beginning to better understand how regulatory burden holds credit unions back; and we’re seeing more Members of Congress embrace the notion that credit unions that are serving their members well should be allowed to continue to do that.

Everyone who participated in the GAC should take pride in what took place last week; but we should also be mindful that advocacy is a process, not an event.  Bill Cheney opened the GAC with a call for credit unions to Unite for Good around a vision that Americans choose credit unions to be their best financial partner.  It can be said with confidence that credit union advocates in the days following the unveiling of this vision united for good on Capitol Hill to make a positive impact on behalf of their powerful cause; however, we must continue to build on this momentum in order to fulfill the vision we share.

CUNA Management School: Expo Night

Posted by on Tuesday, 31 July, 2012

Two heads are better than one, or so the saying goes. However, after CUNA Management School’s Expo Night, I feel the time-worn axiom should be updated just a bit: 223 heads are better than two.

Students of CUNA Management School flooded the CUNA campus Monday for the annual CUNA Expo night where the future credit union leaders collaborated to come up with the next big idea that will propel the credit union movement forward.

Upon arriving, the crowd of credit union professionals split into groups based upon topics each student selected previously. Each topic focused on ways to strengthen the credit union movement, spanning a vast spectrum of issues including:

  • Taking Your Career to the Next Level
  • Getting Social Media Right
  • Raking in the Loans
  • Making Mandatory Compliance Training Fun
  • Attracting Gen Y
  • Increasing Credit Union Awareness
  • And more

The groups were challenged to come up with a BIG IDEA that addressed their topic and submit that idea to be judged by the entire room for its originality, practicality and overall inventiveness. Pride was not the only thing on the line. Each member of the winning group, as determined by a school-wide vote, would be entered for the chance to win $3,000 scholarship dollars towards their class scholarship fund.

Oh, and the entire event was being timed. Go!

You can imagine what happened next. Talking, discussing, listening, re-thinking, talking louder, debating, and eventually, innovation. After time was called, one team member from each group expressed their group’s idea visually on a piece of paper. Explaining your idea audibly was “illegal.” The CUNA cafeteria suddenly got much more colorful wallpaper.

Now for the vote. After all ideas were posted, each student was equipped with 3 “likes” that they could assign to 3 separate ideas. You could “like” your own idea, but only once, and you had to distribute all three of your “likes.” Here are a few of the most popular ideas, as explained by the students themselves:

  • BIG IDEA: Loan it Forward Program  This idea is based on the fact that the cheapest and most effective advertising is WORD OF MOUTH. When a member closes a loan, at time of the loan closing, they are given a $50 Loan it Forward coupon. They give this coupon to a friend, co-worker or family member. When the friend, co-worker or family member applies for a loan, the original member gets $50! Then at the time of their closing, the new member gets a Loan it Forward coupon to pass out and the cycle continues. With this promotion, the credit union’s loan volume will grow.
  • BIG IGEA: Attract & Retain Young Members  To keep pace with the large number of members, especially young members, converting to mobile banking, credit unions should develop financial applications to make it easier to access the financial resources they need on their smart phone. Some applications to develop include: Pay Merchant, Bill Pay, FaceTime with a credit union service representative, financial calculators, remote deposits, Pay Book and more. These resources will please existing members and attract new ones.
  • And the winner! BIG IDEA: Member Created Ad Contest In order to increase credit union awareness, CUNA and state leagues will host a national advertising contest. Participants will be challenged to create their own ads praising the credit union difference and will submit their entries by uploading their advertisement onto YouTube. The winning advertisement, as determined by either votes or views, will be featured in their state league’s credit union campaign and receive $25,000 in prize money. Runners up will have the chance to win 1 of 500 iPads.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. After last night’s event I can confidently say that the credit union movement’s future could not be in better (or more enthusiastic) hands. Watch for more big idea posts soon.

Coalition Building: Collaboration in Advocacy

Posted by on Tuesday, 17 July, 2012

When I present advocacy training seminars or teach my class at CUNA Management School, I usually talk about the ten basic lobbying principles:  unity, clarity of objectives, discipline, subject matter expertise/preparation, perseverance, adaptation, opposition research, credibility/trust, key actors and coalition building.  I intend to discuss each of these principles in future blog posts; this installment is dedicated to coalition building and published in conjunction with a presentation that I am giving to the World Council of Credit Unions Conference in Gdansk, Poland.

If you attend any credit union system conference, I can guarantee you that someone will talk about collaboration – working with others to accomplish a specific task.  Collaboration occurs in just about every aspect of the credit union movement, even in the way we approach advocacy.  In fact, given how challenging it has become to get Congress to move even the most basic piece of legislation, collaborations with other interested parties – coalition building – is an essential part of a successful advocacy plan.

At a basic level, there are a lot of advantages to working with other groups that share our interests in an issue. 

  • A coordinated approach is almost always more effective than two parties with similar interests working on their own.  Multiple parties mean additional resources can be brought to bear to fight what may be an expensive and long battle.  Working together allows each group to bring their strengths to the table, whether they are financial, access, knowledge or grassroots. 
  • Joining forces also brings together additional perspectives.  Coalition members may want to see a policy advanced for different reasons.  Having advocates that approach the issue from a different perspective can be valuable as long as the end goal is truly the same for all involved.  In fact, multiple perspectives can help policymakers draw the logical conclusion that the impact of the proposal is broader than if just one group was pushing for the bill. 

However, there are also risks associated with being a part of a coalition.

  • Being a part of a coalition may mean partnering with groups that oppose your efforts on other, unrelated issues.  On several issues, CUNA has partnered with groups, like banking trade associations and retail trade groups, which oppose significant aspects of the credit union legislative agenda.  We work together when we can, and we find we are more successful when we do.
  • Participating in a coalition requires the surrender of a degree of autonomy.  Group deliberations lead to group decisions; the path the coalition decides to take may not have been the path an individual participant would have followed.  However, this risk can be managed by leveraging the strengths you bring to the table.   
  • What is more challenging and more important to manage is the exposure of an organization’s credibility, resources, strengths and weaknesses.  Part of the decision matrix when joining the coalition has to be answering the question, “How will this make us look?”  Another important question to consider is whether the effort is worth the cost, actual and reputational.  This is especially important on peripheral issues that may be more important to the other coalition members than they are to your group. 
  • Finally, it is also important to keep in mind that when you are a part of a coalition, your partners get an insight on your strengths and weaknesses, which could help them in a future legislative battle. 

Coalitions are not a new phenomenon in credit union advocacy – the Campaign for Consumer Choice is a good example of the effectiveness of a broad coalition effort led by CUNA.  I remember this effort because, as a Congressional staffer, I was on its receiving end.  In fact, my perspective on coalition building has been shaped significantly by the time that I spent on Capitol Hill and the number of times that I saw coalition efforts work.  If you can manage the risks, there are often many good reasons to join or try to form a coalition on many issues. 

A Coalition Needs to Be More Than a List of Names:  The MBL Experience

One of the most important legislative issues for credit unions is, of course, the effort to enact legislation allowing well-capitalized credit unions with significant business lending experience to lend beyond an arbitrary statutory cap imposed in 1998.  The beneficiaries of this legislation will not only be the credit unions that engaged in this additional lending but also the small business-owning credit union members that are able to receive funding and the people they hire as a result.  We estimate that credit unions could lend an additional $13 billion to small businesses in the first year, helping them to create at least 140,000 new jobs.  This legislation (S. 2231 / H.R. 1418) is fiercely opposed by the banking sector, and has historically been viewed by many in Congress as a bank versus credit union issue.  But really, it’s about small businesses. 

In an effort to not only change the conversation but also demonstrate the impact of the bill, we organized a coalition of interested parties to help achieve its enactment.  At first, the goal was to put together a diverse and growing list of organization names to show there was support outside the credit unions system.  Today, there are over 30 organizations which have publicly supported our efforts to enact this legislation – conservative and progressive think tanks, small business organizations and cooperative organizations.

Over the past few years, we have been able to develop our coalition into something more than just a list of names; but it did not happen through a flip of a switch.  Building a strong coalition requires a dedication of resources.  It involves recruiting members, educating them, keeping them informed and urging them to take action at the appropriate time. 

In the beginning, we did not ask much of these groups, only that they allow us to use their name in support of the bill.  We were seeking to broaden our base of support.  Over time, however, we found we needed more from our coalition partners; and we found they were all willing to give more to the effort!  We first asked our coalition partners to engage in blog posts and media opportunities touting the importance of credit unions as part of the solution to the small business credit crunch.  Then, we encouraged the groups to include information about our legislation in their talking points on Capitol Hill.  In February, we organized a “Small Business Hike the Hill” where credit unions and our coalition partners brought small business owners to Washington to speak with lawmakers about the legislation.  And, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced his intention to call a vote on the MBL legislation, our coalition partners responded by asking their members to call on Congress to pass the bill.  This response would not have been possible without the effort we’ve put into developing the coalition over the last three or four years. 

Just as the ability of our coalition to take action did not develop overnight, the size and composition of the coalition did not develop immediately.  It took a lot of time to get to 30 members.  I can remember when we used say we had “over a dozen,” and meant 13!  The size of our coalition grew as we perfected our alliance, and this process continues. 

In general, more partners are better – we’re continuing to seek additional partners – but it is also important to have the right partners.  Our coalition includes a number of very large and reputable organizations; their participation has helped us attract additional partners. However, absent from our coalition are two of the biggest small businesses groups in the United States.  The primary reason these groups have not weighed in on our behalf is the influence the banks have on their membership.  Were they to join the coalition, the credibility of the group would surely increase.  Fortunately, the coalition has not been hindered by their absence.

Thanks in large part to the active participation of our coalition partners, we were able to secure our first conservative Senate cosponsor; we added a dozen House cosponsors to the bill after our Small Business Hike; and during our major advocacy push in the spring, we added 16 new cosponsors bringing our total to 140.  All of this has well positioned us to win a vote on the MBL legislation later this year.

The Challenge of Working With Competitors:  The Interchange Fees Experience

Before the MBL coalition was formed, we joined the Electronic Payments Coalition (EPC), the financial industry coalition to combat interchange fee legislation.  The debate over debit interchange fee regulation ended up being the fiercest trade association battle fought before Congress in years, pitting the financial services sector against the retail sector.  An unprecedented amount of resources were applied over what was essentially a battle over pennies on debit card transactions.  But, of course, those pennies add up very quickly.

The EPC is a full time coalition, comprised of the payment card networks, the six major financial services trade associations, several large banks, and at least three credit union service organizations.  It is managed by an outside lobbying firm and also retains a communications firm.  The participants in this coalition have the same goal: opposition to the regulation of interchange fee rates.

As with any coalition, each of the major participants in the EPC brought strengths and weaknesses to the table.  The payment card networks, big banks and their trade associations brought significant financial resources and invaluable legal and technical expertise.  However, they also brought baggage; coming out of the financial crisis, the big banks did not have a stellar reputation, and few on the Hill were looking to do them any favors.  The payment card networks had similar reputational issues, and they were the main targets of the merchants’ legal and legislative campaigns.  This is why the members of the EPC needed credit unions and small banks as part of the coalition.  While we did not have the financial resources to match the larger partners, we had a reputation of treating our members well, performing admirably throughout history, and, most importantly, we brought significant grassroots capability to the table.  Between the credit unions and small banks, there were financial institutions in every state and every Congressional district that would be adversely affected by the interchange amendment (notwithstanding the small issuer “exemption”), and our job was to make sure that story was told.

Over time, the members of the coalition naturally played to their strengths, but one of the significant challenges to success was the fact that many of the partners were competitors in the marketplace; many of the partners operated in different parts of the market; and some of the partners (ie. credit unions) had completely different business models.  As a result, there was a level of natural wariness that could never be displaced.  Unfortunately, this contributed to inefficiencies in the exchange of information and intelligence and may have ultimately hampered strategic execution. 

We and the small banks probably came the closest to overcoming these challenges, for we truly were in the same boat – seemingly beneficiaries of a meaningless exemption that complicated our efforts to defeat (and then repeal) bad public policy.  We met frequently with the small bank lobby – in our offices and theirs – and our staff spent countless hours working closely together developing lobbying strategies, organizing Hill meetings and considering legislative alternatives. A year removed from the major vote on the interchange amendment in the Senate, I’m am still pleased with the working relationship we developed with our small bank counterparts on interchange. 

What we learned from the interchange process is that sometimes circumstances force you into alliance with groups that have similar but somewhat competing interests.  In these situations, it is important to do everything within your power to manage those challenges, maintain credibility and play to your strengths.

Sometimes You Need a Coalition But Cannot Form It Yourself:  The ATM Fee Disclosures Experience

In the summer of 2011, I was approached by a credit union CEO on a Hike the Hill in Washington regarding an issue with ATM fee disclosures.  After learning more about the issue and what credit unions were doing to comply with the regulation, we decided that the best remedy was to try to get Congress to remove the statutory requirement while at the same time to seek relief from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Since this was an issue that did not only affect credit unions but also any ATM operator, we recognized early that we would be more successful if we tried to bring together a coalition of affected parties. 

We also felt that we would probably have greater success in building the coalition if we were not perceived as the leader of the coalition, so we identified an intermediary group that represented a significant part of the ATM industry and worked with them to form a coalition of banking trades, merchant groups and other ATM operators.  Many of the groups that fought with each other over interchange united to try to attempt to remove this obsolete regulatory requirement.

In contrast to the interchange coalition, the participants had incentive to trust each other because for all intents and purposes they were in the same boat.  The members of this coalition leveraged their contacts on the Hill to generate broad-based bipartisan support for the legislation.  We were able to develop and execute a strategy that resulted in the House of Representatives approving the legislation we supported (H.R. 4367) by a vote of 371-0.  Thanks to the coalition’s efforts, not a single member of the House of Representatives articulated opposition to the bill during its consideration in the Financial Services Committee or on the House Floor.

The ATM issue is an example of coalition building in the financial services sector at its best.  We worked together to generate broad bipartisan support, and played to our strengths to neutralize potential opposition.  And today, we find ourselves working on moving this bill through the Senate.


The framers of our Constitution purposefully made it difficult to enact legislation.  Even though the modern Congresses have turned what should be difficult into something that is nearly impossible, it is probably a good thing that it isn’t easy to change public policy.  There is a strong argument that we are better served by consistent policy that changes in moderation over time than legislative changes enacted with unpredictable fluidity.  But for individuals and organizations charged with affecting change to public policy, throwing up one’s hands and saying that it is too difficult therefore it should not be attempted is not an option.  We must find a way forward, and coalitions are important part of an overall lobbying strategy.   

When engaging in coalitions, it is important that each of the participants plays to their strengths, that your actions maintain and advance your credibility, that you take steps to manage the challenges presented by the coalition, you take time to perfect and build the alliance, and that you do what you can to deflect controversy by remaining actively engaged in the coalition’s strategic direction.

‘Destroy and Reimagine,’ Management Guru Tom Peters Urges CUs

Posted by on Wednesday, 23 May, 2012

From Bill Merrick:

Don’t expect Tom Peters to be warm and fuzzy when he addresses the America’s Credit Union Conference (ACUC) in San Diego this June.

It’s not that the management guru and bestselling author doesn’t like credit unions—quite the contrary, in fact. But being cordial and reassuring isn’t his thing.

“I won’t be a nice guy—and I mean that in the best sense,” Peters said during a recent call from his farm in New Hampshire. “I’m going to be like the dog tugging on your coat who wants to go out.”

Peters won’t ask ACUC attendees to change—that term is “grossly overused,” he says, and lacking in urgency. Instead, Peters implores credit unions and other organizations to “destroy and reimagine.”

That means “spending a heck of a lot more time trying new stuff,” he says. “I’m a strong supporter of decentralized organizations that have energetic and talented people who are allowed to try any darn thing that comes to mind. You act your way into thinking more than you think your way into acting.

“In established organizations, there’s a tendency to shore up what you did yesterday rather than stick your nose into very different air.”

That’s a good reason for leaders to hire people they’re not comfortable with, Peters says. “If you sit down with your executive committee tomorrow morning and you’re comfortable with every one of them, you’ve got a problem, brother. We need some people who are disruptive—those who’ll roll their eyes when the CEO talks about [an outdated] project and say under their breath, ‘that’s so 2009.’ The alternative is obsolescence, failure, and—plain and simple—evaporation.”

Credit unions can avoid obsolescence and compete with larger competitors by staying true to their “bedrock” values of integrity and service, and connecting with their local communities, Peters says.

“The small guy has an enormous advantage” over the larger players, he says. “I tell people in retail that if you’re a local organization and you can’t beat the hell out of Walmart, there’s something wrong with you. Small, local businesses have an opportunity for intimacy with customers that Walmart can’t duplicate.”

Recently called the “Red Bull of management thinkers” by Inc. magazine, Peters will share more advice—and strong opinions—Monday, June 18, during ACUC.

Bill Merrick is senior managing editor for Credit Union Magazine.

Thanks to the Heroes

Posted by on Wednesday, 18 April, 2012

From Beth Stetenfeld:

If you ask friends, neighbors, and colleagues to size up their lives, few say every aspect of life has been perfect—that they’ve had it all.

Some say they have no regrets. But the truth is, we all make choices and sacrifices. At some point, we have to set aside one personal goal or desire for another.

Whether it’s trading time with family for military service or setting aside a long-time cherished hobby for a more lucrative career, we all must choose paths along the way. Often this means subjugating selfish goals for the common good.

Many of the credit union movement’s leaders have made great personal sacrifices for the benefit of their members and communities. And four times each year, Credit Union Magazine highlights and thanks these CU Heroes.

Often these folks say they’ve received as much as they’ve given. While that might be true, they’ve all made credit unions and their members a top priority.

This year, we celebrate the contributions of four more CU Heroes:

  • Rudy Hanley, president/CEO, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Santa Ana, Calif. His political involvement, work ethic, and integrity have benefited his own credit union and the credit union movement, overall.
  • Ron KaseCEO, Landmark Credit Union, New Berlin, Wis. One of his proudest accomplishments: leading his credit union through remarkable growth, including the creation of 450 jobs in southeastern Wisconsin.
  • Frank Matous Sr. (posthumous), former CEO of Tandem Federal Credit Union, Warren, Mich. A credit union pioneer, he encouraged the next generation—including his four sons—to stay active in the credit union movement.
  • Joe Robertson, retired president/CEO, Our Community Credit Union, Shelton, Wash. His credit union garnered a record $18 million increase in deposits during 2009 (doubling the previous year’s increase) during the slow recovery from the recession.

And now it’s time to select the CU Hero of the Year. Please visit to cast your vote.

Voting will take place through April 30. This year’s winner will be honored at CUNA’s America’s Credit Union Conference in San Diego, June 17-20.

So cast your vote and visit to learn more about the conference.

Coming to GAC? Get Ready to Work

Posted by on Thursday, 15 March, 2012

My phone reminded me this morning that GAC starts tomorrow…and I am reminded that I promised my friends at CUNAverse not just one but two blogs before GAC.  I beg forgiveness… we’ve been a little busy here in Washington.

If you’re coming to town this weekend for the GAC, I want you to know that we’re counting on you to help us bring the member business lending bill across the finish line.  I promise you it won’t be easy – in fact, you’ll probably leave DC quite frustrated – but I know we can move the ball if we put it in your hands.

The Senate is presently considering a bill that is generously being referred to as a jobs bill. In reality what this legislation does is relax a set of investor protections in the hopes that businesses will use the savings they receive from reduced regulatory compliance to hire new workers.  No one has estimated how many jobs this might create.  Yet, the bill passed the House of Representatives with almost 400 votes, and the Senate is poised to act perhaps as soon as next week.

What better time to have 4,000 credit union advocates in Washington, DC?

It is not going to be easy getting the MBL bill included in this “jobs” package.  Even though we have made an indisputable case for raising the MBL cap, we have a number of things working against us.

First, there is a strong desire among Senate Republicans to simply take up the House-passed and pass it as is.  (It did pass with almost 400 votes, afterall).  This means the Democratic leadership will be under pressure to simply move it along.  The faster this bill moves through the Senate, the harder it will be to get attached.

Second, if we were successful in getting the amendment considered, we would need to secure 60 votes for its passage.  This is not an impossible task; but in a world in which many Senators don’t believe the MBL bill will come to a vote, they are sometimes reluctant to show their cards unless they have to.  While we have confidence that we have, if not sixty, close to sixty votes, no one really knows.  Perhaps this is why the Independent Community Bankers of America and the American Bankers Association have recently stepped up their effort to block the MBL bill.  (The ABA ran expensive radio ads on the very popular Washington radio station WTOP).

We have very little ability to affect the first challenge – slowing down the bill.  However, there is a group of Democratic Senators trying to do just that.

The second challenge is completely within our hands.  We can get sixty votes (and more) on this legislation.  We’ve laid the ground work to get there.  Everyone in Washington is talking about Mark Udall and his “quixotic” bid to – gasp – allow credit unions to help small businesses.  But to get there, we need to turn up the pressure.  Many don’t believe there is going to be a vote, but we continue to push.

If your Senator is not with us, it’s time to ask them why not?  If they tell you they aren’t with us because it’s not going to come up for a vote, make sure they don’t have any policy concerns.  When they tell you they have no policy concerns (or after you’ve addressed their concerns), let them know small business owners and credit union members throughout their state expect their vote.

The Udall bill would help create 140,000 new jobs in the first year by allowing credit unions to lend an additional $13 billion to small businesses at no cost to taxpayers… and the only folks blocking this bill are the banks that bailed on small business during the crisis, had to be bailed out by taxpayers, were begged to lend to small businesses, and refused that call.  We can get this done.

The day of reckoning is approaching.  With your help next week, we’ll bring that day closer.

Member Business Lending in the Spotlight

Posted by on Friday, 9 March, 2012

Open for business?

Member Business Lending (MBL) is a topic that continues to generate a lot of buzz. Considering our current economic state, why are MBLs getting so much attention? Because they are one of the fastest-growing segments of credit union loan portfolios,  with an average loan growth rate of 4%*. Some credit unions are reporting even higher rates. CUNA’s News Now recently reported that in 2011, Michigan credit unions increased their MBLs  by 21.7%!

Other statistics to note:

  • The number of credit unions offering MBLs: 2,233
  • Average size of  credit union MBLs: $219,120

“While we know that MBLs may not be for every credit union, CUNA’s goal is to provide the most comprehensive information possible to help credit unions make an educated decision on whether to offer these services,” says Doug Benzine, Vice President of CUNA’s Advisory Services. To that end, we present a number of resources for credit unions currently offering or considering adding MBLs to their portfolio including (but not limited to):

1. Member Business Lending Resources;

2. CUNA’s Business Lending Institutes: Fundamentals, Credit Analysis and Advanced Credit Analysis; and

3. Consulting services.

Currently the cap on MBLs is 12.25% of a credit union’s total assets. As the national trade association, CUNA is advocating Congress to enact legislation which would  increase the  cap to 27.5% for well-capitalized credit unions.

Participate NOW in our Call to Action to increase the MBL cap, by contacting your  state representatives and urging them to include Small Business Lending Enhancement Act in the small business jobs bill.

*Source: FDIC, NCUA and CUNA E&S

Update from CUNA’s Community Credit Union & Growth Conference in San Francisco

Posted by on Wednesday, 26 October, 2011

CUNA’s Community Credit Union & Growth Conference is in full swing! You can follow along on Twitter using the hasthtag #CUGrowth or by following our CUNAverse Twitter feed.

The event, which is held in San Francisco this year, focuses on transforming innovative thought into solid action plans for credit union growth. Sessions run the gamut from gaining the loyalty of the Hispanic community and a discussion about the upcoming Bank Transfer Day to strategic board recruitment and an interactive youth financial literacy workshop using Mad City Money.

Credit Union Magazine posted an interesting article today highlighting activities and photos from yesterday’s sessions like the one below featuring our very own Meghann Dawson in action. Be sure to check out the full article on Credit Union Magazine’s website.

Behind desk from left: Marianne McCrary and Meghann Dawson welcome attendees to CUNA’s Community CU & Growth Conference in San Francisco Monday. The conference features a legislative and regulatory update, a Mad City Money simulation with local high schoolers, and workshops on developing a sales culture and building a younger cooperative. A new session on the agenda is a Wednesday roundtable on Bank Transfer Day, notes Dawson, CUNA’s manager of instructional design.